In my last post I shared a list of symptoms to watch for if you feel your child may need mental health services. The next step is to look for a therapist that would be a good fit for your family. This can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to look for and what questions to ask.
Who is Qualified to Treat my Family?
Psychotherapy may be performed by practitioners with many different qualifications. Clinical Social Workers, Clinical Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors, and Psychiatrists are all considered psychotherapists and are licensed to provide mental health services. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) provide more psychotherapy than any other professional group. We hold a Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) with an emphasis in clinical experience. We also undergo supervised clinical field internships, have at least 2 years supervised clinical experience and pass a state licensing exam. Psychiatrists are medical doctors and the only psychotherapists that can prescribe medications. In recent years, most psychiatrists do mostly medication management and refer their patients to other professionals for counseling. Licensed Professional Counselors have a Masters degree in counseling or a related field, must obtain supervised clinical experience, and pass a licensing exam. Clinical Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and pass a state licensing exam. Psychologists are the only psychotherapists that provide psychological testing. All of these professionals are trained to provide psychotherapy, and most have areas of specialized training and experience. When looking for a therapist, ask what their areas of specialty are and if they have the kind of experience you are looking for.
Should I use my health insurance to pay for our psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy can be expensive. When looking for a therapist, ask about fees. Don’t hesitate to ask if they have a sliding fee scale if your family cannot afford to pay the full fee. If you want to use health insurance, check with your insurance provider to find out if mental health services are covered and look for an in -network provider. However, be aware that when therapists file insurance for you, they are required to give you a mental health diagnosis that will become part of your permanent medical record. This could possibly affect the cost of your premiums or your ability to become insured in the future. For this reason, many people are opting to pay out- of -pocket for mental health services if they can afford it.
A Good Fit
Having a good relationship with your therapist is extremely important. If the therapy will include children, I always recommend that parents meet the therapist first, without the children, to see if it feels like a good fit. As important as it is for your therapist to be well trained, it is as important that you feel comfortable, safe, and connected to her/him. That relationship will make the hard work of therapy much easier and more valuable.
Let me know what other questions you have about choosing a therapist for yourself or your family. Visit my website for more information about my practice: www.gretchenwoosley.com